Play is any activity that is pursued for joy. This can be contrasted with work or study that is designed to produce a result. Play is the vocation of childhood as it is an essential part of learning and development. As such, time for play is viewed as a childhood right and is covered by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Play also has benefits for grownups as a means to learn, stoke creativity, stay healthy and enjoy life. The following are common types of play.
Object PlayPlaying with objects. An essential form of early play that allows a baby to learn about the things around them such as colors, shapes, forms, textures, weights, fragility and how things work.
Independent PlayPlaying alone with intense focus. This is an early form of play that remains important as a means for developing concentration and the ability to create, construct and do things independently.
Social PlayPlay that involves others. This has several variations:
|Onlooker Play ||Watching others play without directly participating. This may involve communication.|
|Parallel Play||Playing side by side in a similar fashion. For example, two children who are drawing different things at the same time. This may involve communication and mimicking each other's play.|
|Associative Play ||Play that involves interaction but not cooperation. For example, one child who is pretending to be a turtle and another who is pretending to be a superhero with interactions but no shared narrative.|
|Cooperative Play||Play that involves cooperation such as constructing something together. |
|Communicative Play||Play based on communication such as jokes, debate and singing.|
|Improvisation||Improvisation is the building of a story in a social and dynamic way such as children who defeat an imagined villain as a team. |
Make-BelieveImagining things as part of play. For example, a child who imagines they are exploring an alien world.
Suspension of DisbeliefSuspension of disbelief is the process of pretending to believe in fantasies constructed by others. For example, temporarily imagining a video game is real in order to fully experience it.
Recapitulative PlayActing out elements of culture and tradition such as stories, history, pastimes and rituals. For example, a child who pretends to be a samurai.
Storytelling PlayTelling or acting out a story. For example, a young child who retells a story they have heard in their own words with a few changes.
Imitative PlayImitating others including characters from media such as television.
Role PlayAssuming a role such as an object, animal or character from fiction. For example, a child who pretends to be a dog or cat.
Physical PlayRunning, jumping, climbing, swimming and other types of physical activity undertaken for enjoyment.
Rough & TumbleInteractive physical play such as chasing, play fighting and wrestling.
Deep PlayRisk taking play that serves to overcome fears and develop confidence. For example, jumping off things or climbing a tree.
ExplorationExploration of real or imagined environments. For example, imagining that you are exploring a pirate cave that is in fact a closet. Exploration is a common theme of video games, particularly adventure games.
MysterySolving a mysterious problem for fun.
True PlayFree play that is undirected and unconstrained.Play with rules such as a video game, card game or physical game such as hide and seek.
PuzzlesGames that challenge mental abilities such as spatial intelligence. Play that involves long term planning to achieve a goal. For example, designing and building a fort that will be useful in a water balloon fight.
Play that involves short term planning to achieve a goal. For example, figuring out how to hit someone who is behind a tree with a water balloon without getting hit yourself.
SportsA game based on physical competition such as soccer. This often has a social aspect such as team membership. Sports can serve to build competitive spirit, physical confidence and skills.
Musical PlayMusic related play such as singing, dancing or playing real or imagined musical instruments.
ArtsCreating art such as a painting or sculpture.
Constructive PlayBuilding things such as a paper airplane or a building made of sand.
Mastery PlayPlay that involves trying to improve with time to master a skill or knowledge area. For example, a child who wants to be good at chess, video games or drawing who plays with a goal to improve.
This is the complete list of articles we have written about play.
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ReferencesUnicef. "Convention on the Rights of the Child." (1989).Caillois, Roger. Man, play, and games. University of Illinois Press, 2001.Sawyer, R. Keith. Pretend play as improvisation: Conversation in the preschool classroom. Psychology Press, 2013.Hughes, Bob. Evolutionary playwork and reflective analytic practice. Routledge, 2013.
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